hbquikcomjamesl Posted 30 Oct 2013 , 8:03am
post #1 of

ANot sure whether to put this here or under how-to:

On last year's Leland Awards cake, I had trouble keeping the letters at a consistent size: they kept getting noticeably smaller as I went from left to right. (There are pictures in my "baked goods" set on Flickr; see the link in my signature.)

Can anybody suggest a way to keep the size consistent across a line? Maybe something analogous to penciling in cap-height, x-height, base, and descender lines, and possibly the letters themselves, for hand-lettering in ink or paint on something non-edible?

Maybe scratch guides into the frosting before piping?

I'm not one to reinvent the wheels, and surely this wheel has already been invented.

23 replies
cupcakemaker Posted 30 Oct 2013 , 5:40pm
post #2 of

AWilton do letters you can press in and then use the imprint as a guide.

dawnybird Posted 30 Oct 2013 , 6:38pm
post #3 of

Quote:

Originally Posted by hbquikcomjamesl 

Not sure whether to put this here or under how-to:

On last year's Leland Awards cake, I had trouble keeping the letters at a consistent size: they kept getting noticeably smaller as I went from left to right. (There are pictures in my "baked goods" set on Flickr; see the link in my signature.)

Can anybody suggest a way to keep the size consistent across a line? Maybe something analogous to penciling in cap-height, x-height, base, and descender lines, and possibly the letters themselves, for hand-lettering in ink or paint on something non-edible?

Maybe scratch guides into the frosting before piping?

I'm not one to reinvent the wheels, and surely this wheel has already been invented.


I have the same problem, James, and another one besides:  my writing slants downward so that each letter sits a little lower than the one before. I always think I'm watching this carefully but it still happens every time!!

AnnieCahill Posted 30 Oct 2013 , 7:43pm
post #4 of

You can definitely use a toothpick and "stipple" the letters into the base coat of icing before you actually pipe them, or print off a template and use it to practice piping letters.

 

I do recommend using the back of your cake pan to practice so you can get your sense of space.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 30 Oct 2013 , 7:50pm
post #5 of

Idea:

 

Using unwaxed dental floss (the only contaminant-free stringlike substance I can think of that's intended to go in a person's mouth) stretched across the lettering area for base, x-height, cap-height, and descender lines, "use a toothpick and 'stipple' the letters," as Annie suggests. Then remove the dental floss and pipe. Think that would work?

AnnieCahill Posted 30 Oct 2013 , 7:56pm
post #6 of

Absolutely!

Elaine2581 Posted 31 Oct 2013 , 3:26am
post #7 of

On crusted buttercream cakes I sometimes print the letters on the computer on card stock paper, prick the letters with a pin, place the paper on the cake and run over it with a fondant smoother, remove the paper and then follow the pricks with piping.  Otherwise, I use a laser beam level that I originally bought to help hang pictures straight.  You shine the beam across the cake and pipe the letters on the line.  I suppose you could use more than one if you needed more guidelines.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 31 Oct 2013 , 4:11am
post #8 of

AI think I like my dental floss idea better: a few feet of dental floss, and a few toothpicks, are a lot cheaper than multiple laser levels. :)

Elaine2581 Posted 31 Oct 2013 , 12:17pm
post #9 of

That's fine.  I can get by with just one laser beam that we already had on hand and it just shines across the cake so that it doesn't leave any marks at all.  But if you need more lines (like a tablet paper) I can understand that purchasing several lasers could be expensive.  Just trying to help.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 2 Nov 2013 , 6:13am

AI ended up just doing base and cap-height lines, and the x-height and the one descender (on a non-lining "3" in "2013") managed to take care of themselves. But the dental floss worked, and I now have a roll of unwaxed dental floss in the utensil drawer (it's of little use in the bathroom; for normal use, I prefer cinnamon-waxed!)

And I ended up scribing, rather than stippling, the letters in with the toothpick.

Not perfect, but I think it's an improvement on last year. Photo to follow, when I have some time to drop the resolution, upload it to Flickr, and get a link to it on my computer at work (Flickr's slick, high-performance user interface is really sucky on my "bionic desk lamp" iMac, and my dial-up connection).

But I'm firmly convinced that I need some brown food coloring: I added McCormick drop-by-drop, lots of cinnamon, and some ground clove to the frosting I mixed for the lettering, and I couldn't get it any darker than, say, chicken gravy. Then again, I have some ideas for edible printing for the lettering on next year's cake.

KathleenC Posted 2 Nov 2013 , 3:23pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by Elaine2581 
 

Otherwise, I use a laser beam level that I originally bought to help hang pictures straight.  You shine the beam across the cake and pipe the letters on the line.  I suppose you could use more than one if you needed more guidelines.

 

Awesome idea!  I would never have thought of that.  You could just sit it on something the same height as the cake and aim it across the top where you want the lettering.  Move it for the second line, etc.  I'm adding that to my arsenal of things I want to try.  :)

-K8memphis Posted 2 Nov 2013 , 3:25pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by hbquikcomjamesl 


But I'm firmly convinced that I need some brown food coloring: I added McCormick drop-by-drop, lots of cinnamon, and some ground clove to the frosting I mixed for the lettering, and I couldn't get it any darker than, say, chicken gravy. Then again, I have some ideas for edible printing for the lettering on next year's cake.

 

 or cocoa powder

dawnybird Posted 2 Nov 2013 , 4:12pm

Quote:

Originally Posted by hbquikcomjamesl 
 

Idea:

 

Using unwaxed dental floss (the only contaminant-free stringlike substance I can think of that's intended to go in a person's mouth) stretched across the lettering area for base, x-height, cap-height, and descender lines, "use a toothpick and 'stipple' the letters," as Annie suggests. Then remove the dental floss and pipe. Think that would work?


James, do you mean actually mark the cake with the dental floss, or just lay it on top as a guide? If you mark it, then those marks (lines) actually have to remain on your cake? Just trying to envision what you're talking about.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 3 Nov 2013 , 7:23am

ALaid across the cake, stretched between toothpicks. Not a perfect solution yet, because I couldn't quite maintain the tension, but better than freehand. Then scribe the letters into the frosting, just deep enough to know where you're piping.

And as to cocoa powder, well, (1) I don't eat chocolate, and (2) it would fight with the flavors that are already present.

MBalaska Posted 3 Nov 2013 , 8:24am

Quote:

Originally Posted by hbquikcomjamesl 

Laid across the cake, stretched between toothpicks. Not a perfect solution yet, because I couldn't quite maintain the tension, but better than freehand. Then scribe the letters into the frosting, just deep enough to know where you're piping.

And as to cocoa powder, well, (1) I don't eat chocolate, and (2) it would fight with the flavors that are already present.

have you considered using plastic chocolate molds for candy coating letters?  they come in quite a few sizes, and you can lay them carefully on the top of the cake.  Also the white candy coating is a neutral flavor.  (I have to do these kind of things as I can't write at all with piped icing)

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 3 Nov 2013 , 8:25pm

Ok. Here is last year's Leland Award cake. Note how the lettering was rather uneven in size.

Cake for 2012 Leland Awards

 

And now, this year's cake, and the recipient, Michael Powe, with both the trophy and the cake:

Leland2013cakeLeland2013recipient

Note how the lettering, while I couldn't get it as dark, is at least neater (although I now notice that the "rd" in "Award" is just a bit shrunken), and how I did a better way of troweling the frosting smooth, and at least attempted to apply "The Family Pattern" to it.

 

It was well received, and I know I need (1) some food coloring of approximately a burnt sienna color, and (2) an offset frosting spatula of about the same size and shape as the 50-odd-year-old flat one I use, because the handle gets in the way of troweling it smooth.

 

And I think next year, I'll use roughly this same layout, but shift the trophy a bit to the right, and the Museum logo a bit to the left.

-K8memphis Posted 3 Nov 2013 , 9:00pm

nice work--well done--i love the hand crafted look--could each and every minute detail be more perfect--sure i guess--but you did an excellent job--

 

you need to think about jumping off the cliff and setting the cake on it's own board--just think about it--no pressure--just a thought for you--you might want to practice turning a cake out of the pan in the meantime--gathering up some materials--some boards--inflexible boards--a cake box--you'll want a little bit firmer fluffier icing to hold up on the edges--learn to pipe a border--or apply some nice candies for borders--

 

go for it ;) maybe for 2015--i don't know how soon the 2014 awards will be--just a thought--

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 4 Nov 2013 , 1:37am

A

Original message sent by -K8memphis

nice work--well done--i love the hand crafted look--could each and every minute detail be more perfect--sure i guess--but you did an excellent job-- . . . .

Thank you. I try.
. . . you need to think about jumping off the cliff and setting the cake on it's own board. . .

Believe me, I've thought of it. When I was much younger, I baked a sheet cake from a recipe that used to be on the Bisquick box, depanned it, and served it on an inverted cookie sheet*. And I haven't exactly got a choice with my dad's birthday cakes: what would be the point of baking a pound cake in a Bundt mold if you weren't planning on depanning? On at least one occasion, I've even depanned a 9x13 sheet cake, just to check the thickness, even though the intention was always to serve it in-pan.

The thing stopping me is transport and storage safety: a 9x13 pan with a snap-on cover is the most secure shipping and storage container I have for a cake; anything else would, especially in my car, run the risk of the cake being thrown around and ruined. I've seen cake carriers, but the only things I've seen that are suitable for shipping a 9x13 securely are decidedly non-cheap.

Another thing I think I'll change for the next one would be to pipe the initial ridges for "The Family Pattern," possibly even in a slightly darker shade, rather than carve furrows with the spatula (but still use alternating cuts with the edge of the spatula to form the pattern)

---- *Speaking of inverted cookie sheets, an old family baking trick is to invert the cookie sheet when baking cookies: you can then slide foil liners on and off quickly, reducing cleanup, and allowing you to prep the entire batch on foil liners.

-K8memphis Posted 4 Nov 2013 , 1:43am

cake box? no?

 

i mean you can't fold it under your arm like a football of course but a cake box set on an upside down cookie sheet-- set on top of a roll of paper towels to level out the car seat and the box strapped in with the lower part of the seat belt--done

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 4 Nov 2013 , 2:16am

AAnd actually, I can carry -- or toss around -- a cake in that nice covered Nordic Ware pan as if it were a football; it's that secure.

As I recall, the only cake carriers I could find to accommodate a 9x13 were part of a set, with most of the parts designed to accommodate a <profanity>-load of cupcakes.

MBalaska Posted 4 Nov 2013 , 3:07am

guide for lettering.......have you tried a small Frozen buttercream transfer?

you could make one for the whole word and place it neatly on top of your cake, if you don't want fondant, gumpaste or chocolate molded letters.

hbquikcomjamesl Posted 4 Nov 2013 , 9:52pm


Cardboard (albeit in a somewhat smaller size than you suggested, in my case) is all fine and dandy if one is selling the cake, and doesn't expect to see the container again, but I was looking at things more along the line of

 

http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?id=BFB486EA-802D-F658-02B38E82FDA40AB1&killnav=1

or

http://www.containerstore.com/shop/kitchen/foodStorage/specialty?productId=10023954&N=74066

 

which are decidedly non-cheap (especially after what I just spent on building a new car-cord for my cell phone!)

 

The biggest pain in the butt is that most cake carriers are designed to hold a round layer cake, not a 9x13 sheet cake.

Krypto Posted 4 Nov 2013 , 11:31pm

AI was gifted this one and I love it.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Tupperware-Rectangular-Cake-Taker-4-9-x13-Cake-New-Large-Size-Cake-or-Cupcakes-/271309859729

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